By Adam Hoge-
BOURBONNAIS (CBS) When Mike Tice was a player, he preferred playing for coaches that told him the truth and didn’t just tell him what he wanted to hear.
Now that he’s the coach, he takes that approach with all of his players. That’s why he insists he wasn’t trying to send J’Marcus Webb a message when he played the left tackle into the fourth quarter of the Bears preseason opener last week against the Broncos.
“There’s no message being sent,” the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach said. “Anything that goes on with the players, they know up front in a meeting. They’re told how much they are going to play. They’re told why there is competition at certain positions. They’re told each day where we need to see them improve in what areas. There’s no secrets. I don’t operate like that. Message, subliminal message. There’s none of that going on.”
And yet, there is one message that is pretty clear: Webb is going to lose his job if he doesn’t get better in a hurry. Tice liked how Chris Williams played at right tackle in the first preseason game and he once again is giving him the chance to beat out Webb for the starting left tackle position.
“I felt like Chris had a solid game,” Tice said. “I didn’t feel like the other player was up to par as far as the standards we’re trying to set to protect our quarterback. So we’re going to make sure we continue to see who’s going to emerge over there as to who is the guy.”
It’s probably not a good thing when your coach refers to you as “the other guy”, but evidently, that’s where Webb stands right now. Tice said Williams will also get reps with the No. 1 offensive line in Saturday night’s preseason game against the Redskins at Soldier Field. He wants to see how they both fare against Washington’s No. 1 defensive line.
“I have trouble sleeping at night until I know our quarterback is protected,” Tice said.
Indeed, with just a few days left in Bourbonnais, the Bears’ left tackle position is looking as dire as ever. But what’s more concerning is that it’s not the only position on the offensive line Tice is unhappy about.
“I didn’t feel overall as an offense that we did enough physically to make any kind of statement,” Tice said. “The biggest disappointment in all of it was that we didn’t run the ball well. I thought from day one of mini-camp, even OTA days, we were going to be able to run the ball when we wanted to run the ball and we didn’t do a good job of running the football.”
Tice singled out left guard Chris Spencer, saying he was “very surprised” by how poorly he played.
“It was not a good tape to watch. It’s certainly not a tape you want on your resume,” the offensive coordinator said.
On the bright side, Tice said Lance Louis played with “great tenacity” at right guard and added: “I don’t think we are going to find that he’s going to back down at all from anybody this season.”
He’s also very encouraged by the progress of Gabe Carimi’s surgically repaired knee. The right tackle played in his first game action in 10 months last week and while it wasn’t his greatest performance, Tice feels that once Carimi’s legs come underneath him, he’ll “show up on the plus side for us.” Tice added that Carimi had a very good practice Sunday and is starting to look like the guy they saw last year in training camp.
But overall, Tice was disappointed his players didn’t carry some of the techniques from practice over to the game and the physicality wasn’t good enough.
“I thought physically we got our butts kicked,” he said. “I think it was evident.”
The offensive coordinator still remains confident, however, because the Bears didn’t use any of the scheming he has repeatedly talked about. Right now he wants to see how the offensive linemen can handle themselves 1-on-1, but when they face the New York Giants in their third preseason game Aug. 24, Tice will start to use the scheming he is installing to give certain linemen help in certain situations.
For now, you’ll continue to see the No. 1 line a lot. In the second preseason game, Tice typically plays the starting offensive line the entire first half, if not more. You will see a rotation between Webb and Williams at left tackle and the two can probably be considered co-starters right now at the position.
Let’s be clear though. Tice still wants Webb to seize the job. The kid has the greater physical tools, he just needs to toughen up mentally and start taking his job more seriously.
“Anytime your players are playing with inconsistencies, as a coach, you struggle,” Tice said. “So you want to look at what you’re doing first. What kind of drills, what you’re asking them to do, how you’re teaching it, how your power points are going, what kind of film you’re showing them, what kind of notes they’re taking. I think that’s all I can do. I can’t worry about Webb Nation and all the other things he does socially, that’s not for me. He’s a grown man. I just want him to play better football for us.”
And if he doesn’t start playing better football at this critical stage in his career, then he’ll get the very non-subliminal message that the Bears are moving on.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.